by David O’Boyle Copyright 2021 Transient Visitors: Month 1 of 12, a Collection of Very Tiny Tales.

Smoke rose from Chastity’s cigarette. As the flame climbed toward the tipping paper, she wondered whether the particulates it dispensed into the air were dirtier than the potential patrons stumbling by. She didn’t think so. Maybe that’s why she bought cigarettes and the drunks stumbling by bought her.

It took half of breaktime to find the right target. When he finally appeared, Wolfy, the bouncer standing in front of the red roping, saw him too. Wolfy had worked the door at Stephania’s long enough to ID a sucker almost as fast as the strippers.

 “How much do you think you’ll get from him?” Wolfy asked.

“Ten times cover,” Chastity said, adjusting her footwear.

“Sounds about right,” Wolfy said. “Lemme get him over here.”

The bouncer yelled terms across the street. Their prey, who at the moment was playing air guitar under the main window of a live music bar, declined the invitation.

“Disregard the sign. No cover,” Wolfy said. 

The hook was set. In a minute, the air guitarist left his sidewalk stage and entered Stephania’s. Chastity’s hand stroked his back before his feet left the welcome mat.

“Hey, Hun. Sit down with me over there?” she said, directing him to two chairs in the back. When they settled into the new spot and started talking, Chastity confirmed her customer did not frequent strip clubs.

“Happy to hear it,” Chastity said with a seductive smile. Her statement was true. But not for the reasons implied. Chastity was happy to hear it because nice folks in strip clubs dole out coin like kids at a wishing well. They slip you tips just for normal, clothes-on conversation.

“Chastity to the stage,” the emcee said over the loudspeaker.

“That’s me,” she said.

“How can I get you to stay?” he said as she rose from her chair.

“Pay for a dance. Then they’ll skip my turn,” she said.

“Fine. Let’s do it. Let’s have a dance,” he said, struggling to come to terms with what he was negotiating. Problem was, you stay too long at a wishing well, you want to get wet. That’s when the trouble starts.

Chastity grabbed him by the hand and led him to a back room. After helping her patron to a comfortable seat on the couch, she mounted his crotch and began to move with the rhythm of the song. During the refrain, she reversed her body so her backside faced his front. He gave her a nudge to wedge her closer between his legs. She let it slide because his demand was gentle. During a dance, clients did far worse to Chastity for far less.

Then she felt it. A cold, wet, set of nostrils slimed up her spine. It wasn’t the act itself that frightened her. It was knowing the source of the sound, and that it emitted from a Sniffer, nature’s most powerful nose.

Chastity tried to run. Cold steel ratcheted around her wrists before she reached the door.

“Wolfy!” she screamed.

The bouncer came running, ready to make one of his customary rescues. Once he saw the patron’s nose, he changed course. A nose only swells to such a massive size if it belongs to a Sniffer; and everyone knows you don’t get in the way of a Sniffer. They only look for one thing: intergalactic fugitives in disguise.

As the Sniffer read Chastity her rights, Wolfy wondered a few things. First, what did the little stripper do to attract such specific law enforcement expertise. For you only needed a Sniffer if a suspect had undergone the most extreme black-market changeling surgery, whereby all that was left of their former selves was the slightest trace of genetic code, undetectable to all but a Sniffer. 

Second, who was she, really?

The bouncer remembered something, shuddered, and prayed he didn’t know the answer to both questions. 

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